accessibility legislation for australia?

Impediment no barrier - New extensions to the Disability Discrimination Act, aimed at improving education and training, will soon affect online learning and computer training generally. After seven years of unproductive consultations with the states, the Federal Government is set to act unilaterally next year, with regulations enforcing training accessibility for disabled people. The move is likely to cause the re-engineering of e-learning systems and curriculum, and modification of face-to-face software application courses.

I'd like to point out that Macromedia gets an unopposed pulpit here; despite the fact Macromedia ships products like Dreamweaver with all the accessibility features switched off by default - the same problem which caused so many inaccessible PDFs. Macromedia have also just released "Flash Paper", which is an utterly inaccessible format being billed as a replacement for PDF. Be very careful what you believe. Macromedia are not champions of accessibility; they are simply responding to pressure from advocacy groups. They know their market wants a tool that can create accessible output, so they're working on it. It's business, they're here to make money.

So is this legislation change a Good Thing? It should be, but I'm not getting excited. There is no silver bullet - people still have to want to do the right thing before they'll do it properly. All we can realistically hope for is to raise the minimum standard which people will reach in order to avoid being sued. That's still better than nothing; even if it's not ideal. The problem I see is legislation being rushed through without realistic considerations about implementation. There's no point in doing a half-arsed job or creating rules so impractical they can't be followed (like the internet censorship laws we have).

Basically it will help because it will raise the bar a bit. It will no longer be good enough to slap something together, stick it on a server and hope for the best. The maddening thing is that the worst offenders are the expensive consultancy firms; and they'll continue getting away with murder. Not to mention the Australian government itself and its own sparkling track record.


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